Dear Colleagues –
Against a backdrop of over 100,000 Americans dying of COVID-19—many from underserved populations—the killings of Ahmaud Arbery in Georgia, George Floyd in Minnesota and other heartbreaking events highlight the depth of the racial inequalities and injustices that persist throughout our society. These events are reprehensible and need to be addressed from multiple fronts. Throughout the country—including here in Indianapolis—people are gathering to express their sadness and frustration at the lack of action. This has prompted many discussions at the School about what we are doing, and can do, to confront these problems and make a difference.
As Dean, I am committed to making the School a place where all individuals in the medical school community, at all nine campuses, feel valued, respected and encouraged. I know from first-hand experience, discussions and surveys that at times we fall short of our goals. We have work to do. What we don’t need now are platitudes; we need tangible steps to improve the climate in our community, the sense of security and belonging, beginning with all the members of our community of color. Those steps must be taken by all of us—by people of all colors—to effect true change.
I also recognize that it is difficult when it appears we are not acting on individual cases, when in fact we are, but must keep our actions confidential as required by law.
Based on a number of discussions, we plan to implement a set of actions beginning in the 2020-2021 academic year, which include:
- Reviewing existing data on the state of racial diversity and inclusiveness at IUSM, implementing a climate survey and openly sharing and discussing the results.
- Establishing a series of town hall meetings to review data and solicit additional input on actions to improve diversity, equity and inclusiveness.
- Increasing the office hours of the Deans of Student Affairs and Diversity Affairs to provide more opportunities for School leadership to hear what our community has to say about our climate and how it can be improved.
- Implementing regular training for faculty and learners on the topics of unconscious bias, microaggressions, cultural humility and professionalism.
- Conducting a comprehensive review of the medical school curriculum to address the potential presence of biases and microaggressions.
- Enhancing the curriculum to better address eliminating health disparities.
- Integrating diversity, equity and inclusion into the competency assessment system across every level of training.
- Improving information, resources and transparency around expectations of professionalism and potential consequences of Honor Code violations, which includes acts of racism and bigotry.
This is the first of a number of conversations that I would like to have and steps I would like to take to improve our climate for diversity, equity and inclusion. I would like to hear from you and other members of the community about these ideas and other ways we might improve our climate, our policies and our curriculum.
I understand that some may not feel comfortable voicing their concerns. In addition to open forums we have established confidential and anonymous means of reporting mistreatment and lapses in professionalism, and regularly report on that data. We have also established an independent Ombuds office for confidential sharing of concerns and advice.
Regardless of how we communicate, I want you to know that I will be there to hear what you are saying for the purpose of action. We must be a School where all feel welcomed, encouraged and enabled to do their best. If anything is impeding that excellence, I want to know about it, and I assure you we will take appropriate action.
I thank you for your dedication, and look forward to us making the IU School of Medicine a safe, welcoming and encouraging environment for all.
Jay L. Hess, MD, PhD, MHSA
Executive Vice President for University Clinical Affairs
Dean of the School of Medicine